Key Properties of Black Carbon

Black Carbon is formed as a by-product of incomplete combustion of fossil fuels, bio-fuels and biomass. It is the strongest absorbent of light amongst all the components of particulate matter.

Main Properties of Black Carbon

  • It is directly emitted in the atmosphere as fine particles PM5.
  • It is highly effective in absorbing solar energy and can absorb million times more energy than Carbon Dioxide.
  • It is formed of pure carbon in several linked forms.
  • It is emitted in two forms-anthropogenic and soot. It is a major component of soot .
  • Climatologically, it is highly active and is known as a climate forcing agent. It adds to global atmospheric heating by reducing the albedo which is the property of snow and ice to reflect sunlight.
  • BC emissions are largely done from automobile sources like diesel engines and other vehicles. This comprises 52% of total BC emissions. Other sources include burning of biomass, residential processes, industrial heating etc.
  • Largest contributors of BC in the world are Asia, some parts of African continent and Latin America. China and India together contribute 25-30% of the total global black carbon emissions. These emissions are more intense in the source regions which include: Indo-Gangetic plains of India, Eastern China, Southeast Asia and Indonesia, Equatorial Africa, Latin America etc.  A large part of people live in these hotspots.
  • It was first identified in the Arctic haze aerosols and the Arctic snow.
  • It comprises about 30% of the total carbon component of soils. It serves a major reservoir of nutrients for tropical soils.
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